PERMANENT RECORDS: THE HEIRS OF NOTHING, AND NOTHING MEANS NO ONE CARES
#00: A post-mortem...
Well, thank God that's over.
This past week, I haven't posted much. As Matt Fraction wrote, the first week of the New Year always feels like the world is in bed, hitting the snooze button and hoping to squeeze out some more dozing before getting back to work. I haven't had much to say, haven't yet recharged after last week brought with it a flurry of posts and cleared out the last of the information of 2006. It also brought us the last Permanent Records, and I know some of you won't agree, but I for one am glad to be done with it.
When I first read that Chris Tamarri was going to be writing about one record album a week for 52 weeks, I thought it was an exciting idea. He had created a list of albums that were important to him, and he would spend each week ruminating on why, trying on different styles and undertaking different approaches. I wanted in on the action, and my twist would be that there was no list. Sure, some albums immediately sprang to mind, but from week to week, I'd be free to pick whatever I wanted. I might discover something new, or unearth a previous treasure that I had long since forgotten. The picks had no rhyme or reason except that they meant something to me. Had I tried, I am sure I could have picked things that would have made me seem cooler or at least earned me my card in the predictable halls of music critic fame, but it wasn't about that. As it is, I barely shaved off a fraction of my actual music collection. I have a lot in my house I could write about.
Well, easier said than done. Somewhere in the early summer, I ran out of steam. I felt like I had said everything I had to say and done it all the ways I had the wherewithal to do it and hitting that Friday deadline seemed like a bigger chore as each week wore on.
But I did hit every one. Deadlines are a matter of pride for me, even if they are ones I set myself, even if there were no consequences. Perhaps more so because of that. If I could treat even the unimportant deadlines as absolutely crucial, then I would once and for all live up to my own edict from my days back as an editor. When asked how to not be late, I would answer, "Just don't be late. There is no question of 'how,' you can't even allow for the possibility of failure." So, I stuck with it. All 52 albums were up on Friday or earlier (and in one case, later, but that was for Father's Day and announced ahead of time). I made it.
I apologize to those who read them all. Some people have said that they enjoyed the series up until the end, and I appreciate that, but I know I checked out mentally and didn't always give it everything I had. Sometimes a column was about filling space, being done just to be done. Ironically, those were the ones I generally got feedback on. I'd toss off an entry in twenty minutes at 3:00 in the morning, and then wake up to an e-mail about how it was really good. Such is the cruel fate of the deadline chaser: often the most spontaneous, the least calculated, wins out over the piece that required the greatest investment.
I did learn some things about myself. For one, it seems the real watershed period for me in music was in 1996-1998. That's not totally surprising. That was the height of Britpop, when I chased music with the most fervor, going to tons of concerts and buying piles of magazines and drawing in every sound I could get my ears on. I also learned, though, that there are only so many ways we interact with our music. Comb over the entries and you'll find the same themes cropping up again and again. Off the top of my head, I remember writing a lot about heartbreak, standing alone, and maintaining one's own code in the face of obstacles. Those are really the themes of my fiction writing, too, so it makes sense that the music that would mean the most to me would be the most analogous to my own art. In that sense, we probably didn't need 52 entries, just three main ones, a single write-up for each theme, and then a handful of oddballs. We aren't as multitudinous as we think we are, folks; I'd say we'd need six weeks of columns to fully explain ourselves, and then most of us would be kaput.
I'll never say I'll never do this again, but I wouldn't count on it. Not unless someone sets up some kind of reward for the successful completion of each piece (i.e. money). In fact, if you count the disastrous attempt to create an iTunes playlist for the first half, where I ended up paying for several selections in order that they'd tie in to Apple's fascist standards, this stupid endeavor actually cost me money. It just figures, don't it?
There may be more Permanent Records, though. But with no deadline, no other purpose than the mood strikes me and I find myself wanting to write in-depth about some record or other. On the same tack, I may institute other regular features here on the blog, intermittent series that appear as they need to appear, but with no regular schedule. I'm toying with the idea of writing about my Criterion DVDs, for instance; if I watch one and am not reviewing it for another site, I'll write a little something here. We'll see. If I realize I'm not watching them just because I don't want to write something, this too will be out the window.
Anyway, even this entry is far less insightful than I had thought it would be. It was much more interesting in my head, but then, that's writing for you. Thanks everyone who stuck around for the last 52 weeks. Next time, stop me, won't you?
NOTABLE B-SIDE: For the entire year, only one entry in Permanent Records went unfinished. When I began last January, I had a couple of ideas for different kinds of columns. I did the conversation thing twice, talking to Christopher McQuain about the Auteurs and Ian Shaugnessy about Missy Elliott. I thought of doing one as a short story, and kind of touched on that for Spandau Ballet and last week's Suede entry. I also had wanted to do one or two as comic strips, and get Marc Ellerby or Chynna Clugston to draw them. The closest I got to that was the entry on the Smiths, which to be perfectly honest, was a complete cheat. I wrote it that way because I knew it would take me no time at all. I thumbnailed it in five minutes, typed it up in ten, and posted it right after. I suck.
But, I did do one serious attempt at trying to write a comic strip. Joëlle Jones had even agreed to draw it. It was going to be for Belly's debut album, Star. I began writing it, trying to find one line for each song to turn into an image and see what I could make out of it. Not much, as it turns out, and I never finished it. But, for the curious, here it is:
BELLY - STAR Permanent Records Comic Strip
Fifteen panels, five rows of three, each panel a significant of a song. My attempt is to capture the two feelings I get from the disc, something akin to a Grimm's Fairy Tale on record: child-like innocence mixed with darkness and mortality.
PANEL 1 - "Someone To Die For"
Railroad tracks, seen from above. A copy of Faulkner's Sound and the Fury laying between the rails. A shadow of a boy coming up from the bottom right corner of the panel, his head almost touching the book.
Don't you have someone you'd die for?
PANEL 2 - "Angel"
Tanya Donnelly, but three times, perhaps once in the foreground, and then flanking herself on each side in the background.
Instead he sent three angels.
PANEL 3 - "Dusted"
A Barbie doll, naked, lying in a box of junk. Perhaps another overhead shot, kind of like Panel 1. This is the baby in the cellar from the song, but we need not see the cellar.
Her hmm hmm goes to your heart.
PANEL 4 - "Every Word"
Something like the Suede single cover for "Stay Together." A boy sits in a chair, looking down, his eyes dark, his heart sad. A girl stands, perhaps facing or looking the other way. She is distant. The boy is the same as the shadow in Panel 1, if you want to match the silhouette.
I heard every word.
PANEL 5 - "Gepetto"
The boy from Panel 4, but as a wooden marionette. A Pinocchio.
That kid from the bad home.
PANEL 6 - "Witch"
Not a witch, but an angel, like one that would be on top of a Christmas tree, but instead on a solid base, a decoration that lights up, maybe a music box.
She lies all lit up.
PANEL 7 - "Slow Dog"
The iconic picture of Superman pulling open his suit and tie--shot from mid-level so just chest and stomach, no head--but instead of a costumer underneath, we see his bare chest, and through his skin, we see his heart.
He's shot again.
PANEL 8 - "Low Red Moon"
A crescent moon hanging in the sky, blood dripping off it's low hook like it's a murderous blade.
The heirs of nothing, and nothing means no one cares.
PANEL 9 - "Feed The Tree"
PANEL 10 - "Full Moon, Empty Heart"
PANEL 11 - "White Belly"
Current Soundtrack: Talib Kweli & Madlib, Liberation
Current Mood: beaten
All text (c) 2006 Jamie S. Rich